How does the dental pulp become infected, and what can be done, besides a root canal, to deal with the problem?
The dental pulp inside of a tooth can be damaged in many ways, including trauma, cavities, or wear over time. Whenever the tooth structure is affected, it keeps it from adequately protecting the dental pulp and therefore causing it to become infected or damaged.
The most common reason why the dental pulp becomes infected is due to an untreated cavity. Bacteria is in everyone’s mouth—in fact, it is completely normal and necessary. However, sometimes this bacteria may result in the formation of acid which can eat through enamel and dentin of a tooth if not removed with brushing and flossing. Over time, if this condition is left untreated, it will expose the underlying dental pulp to bacteria and result in the beginning of an infection.
Infection may also occur due to trauma to the mouth. When there is a blow to a specific tooth, it may compromise the blood supply, resulting in the death or degeneration of the dental pulp tissue.
The third method of infection is a result of long standing periodontal disease. Periodontal disease, often referred to as gum disease, is caused by bacteria that infects the gums and can enter through accessory canals, also known as the root surfaces. It may also enter through the tip of the tooth called the apex and cause infection.
Pain killers and antibiotics may be used to address the discomfort initially, but this is a temporary solution and not a true fix. It is also not a substitute for root canal therapy. Sometimes, treatment is necessary to address the pain patients feel due to their infection. The only two options at this point is to perform endodontic therapy or extract the offending tooth. Once removed, replacement options such as dentures, dental implants, and bridges may be considered, but this is more expensive than having root canal therapy done to salvage the structure of the natural tooth.
Patients who are interested in avoiding root canals or extraction are encouraged to take good care of their teeth with proper oral hygiene techniques. Teeth benefit from patients enjoying a healthy, balanced diet that reduces sugars and acids. Eating whole foods and creating meals the include all the food groups is also a great way to keep not only the teeth healthy, but the rest of the body as well!Back to Root Canals Page